Women will be a pivotal part of the Hillary Clinton voting bloc, if the former secretary of state does indeed make a run at the White House in 2016. Thus the "Ready for Hillary" political action committee made a significant hire when they named Running Start co-founder Jessica Grounds director of the PAC's women's office. Grounds starts her new gig Wednesday.
"I always said the only reason I would leave Running Start was to help elect our first woman president, specifically, Hillary Clinton," Grounds said of her organization, which encourages young women to enter politics. "Or if I ever decided to run myself, which I'm not ready to," she laughed.
It was while working for a female candidate during college in California that Grounds started to realize she needed to make politics a more women-friendly place. "I saw politics as the most public way to show people that women could make strong important decisions and were a really important part of society, so that's how I got my start," Grounds said. Once in Washington, she continued to work for female candidates -- including Clinton during the 2008 Iowa caucuses -- while getting involved with WUFPAC, the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee, which helped such candidates as now-MSNBC host Crystal Ball.
"What emerged from our actual work, working with young women candidates, was a real need for an organization that was educating and hiring and supporting young women," Grounds explained.
Thus Grounds and WUFPAC co-founder Susannah Wellford started Running Start, which reaches out to girls and young women, ages 14 through 30, training them to run for anything from college student government to Congress.
All the while, Grounds had a day job working for political consultant Marty Stone. "I kind of literally at one time had three business cards," she laughed.
Since Running Start's founding in 2007, the group has brought in a number of high-profile speakers and mentors. ABC's Diane Sawyer spoke at a Running Start dinner, setting up a scholarship fund in the name of Tucson shooting victim Christina-Taylor Green. Former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., gave time to the group, along with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii. All the while, Grounds became plugged in with the Washington Congressional power set. Whispers saw her recently at Wasserman Schultz's intimate book party at the home of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.
With her new job, Grounds' challenge is two-fold -- be part of an organization trying to recruit the top enchilada -- Clinton herself -- and get women interested in Clinton's second White House bid. "I'm hoping my role will help empower women to see that part of them being empowered is encouraging Hillary to run for president," Grounds said.And if Clinton does indeed sign on to run, Grounds has another personal mission, too: a photo-op redo. The two had previously met several times in Iowa, and it was captured on film. "I have a picture of her from Iowa and it's funny because she looks like a cut-out cardboard in my picture, but she's really there," Grounds said. "I was there with other people in the picture -- they can attest to it too," she laughed.